SOUTHINGTON — Parents and other residents reacted Thursday to an incident where a video on being an LGBTQ ally was shown to Kennedy Middle School students. Nearly all asked the Board of Education to ensure sexuality issues weren’t presented to children without parents’ consent.
School officials and board members have declined to discuss many details of the showing of the video, saying it’s being handled as a personnel matter.
Tim Connellan, school superintendent, said the video was not part of the curriculum and only shown to a “small number” of students.
The YouTube video includes suggestions for heterosexual students to support non-heterosexual friends, such as starting a gender and sexualities alliance. The cartoon-style video was produced by amaze.org, a sex education organization.
It centers primarily on a heterosexual character who interacts with non-heterosexual friends. Two male characters are shown kissing in a scene.
The video can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xS5FMErj0SE.
Southington is in the midst of gay pride events organized by Southington Pride Inc. It's the first such celebration for the town.Parents, residents react
Several residents and parents spoke at Thursday’s Board of Education meeting, with all but one opposed to the video being shown to middle school students.
Valerie Ragucci, a district parent, was concerned that teachers were taking it upon themselves to show unapproved videos on sexuality to children “behind parents’ backs.”
Teaching that there are a multitude of genders or introducing ideas such as being pansexual was an “attack on our children,” she said.
“This is not teaching love and inclusion, this is causing confusion, stress in our children,” Ragucci said.
Tom Galvin said showing the video “undermines parental rights” and that the school district shouldn’t be teaching on “fundamental moral, religious and philosophical issues.” Parents should be the ones deciding whether and when to talk to their children about sexual issues, he said.
Effie Moutogiannis, mother of a DePaolo Middle School student, had no objections to the video. She said education on inclusion could help gay students that are dealing with shame or thoughts of suicide.
“I don’t think we’re promoting sexuality, we’re promoting they’re accepted and supported,” Moutogiannis said. “I’d like to think that we’re going to promote a community of support for the kids no matter what their inclinations are.”Changes in curriculum?
Val DePaolo, a Southington Pride organizer and Town Council member, said she understood parents’ concerns about a video on sexuality that wasn’t part of the approved curriculum. She hoped the pride group could work with the Board of Education on ways to inform youth about non-traditional lifestyles.
“If (the video) is talking about being an ally and being supportive, that could be a very positive thing, especially from what I hear form the youth,” DePaolo said in an interview. “They need to have some education on this and some awareness. They’d like to hear more about it.
“I just think it’s good for people to be aware of all the different types of people who are in this world and how people identify themselves and what type of family they are,” she added. “We’re not just traditional families anymore.”No details from officials
While board members thanked parents and residents who spoke Thursday, they offered no details on the incident or indicated what changes might take place.
“Whether it’s things related to curriculum and what we’re teaching kids, it’s important to make sure we’re doing it effectively and we’re doing it across the board effectively too,” said Joe Baczewski, board vice chairman.
One speaker, Susan Zabohonski, told board members that they needed to show school board oversight of the issue.
“I think the public needs to know how this is going to be handled with the two teachers who put this into a curriculum when they weren’t supposed to,” Zabohonski said. “We’d liked to see what kind of action takes place, how it’ll be handled in the future.”